Villanova hadn't beaten UConn in 18 years and the Huskies had not lost a conference game in nine.
Those streaks came to an end on Wednesday.
Lior Garzon scored 19 points and Maddie Siegrist added 17 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Wildcats to a 72-69 win over the eighth-ranked Huskies, ending Connecticut's 169-game league winning streak that dated back to their last game in the old Big East in 2013.
“This is a game that we always have circled on our calendar,” said Brianna Herlihy, who added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats (16-6, 10-3 Big East). "We come in every practice working to play UConn, to beat UConn. It's huge for the program, because that's the goal — beat UConn, win the Big East."
Villanova, which won its eighth straight, led by as many as 19 points in the second half and held off a furious fourth-quarter charge from the Huskies.
“I don't think we did anything to deserve to win that game and they did everything to deserve that game,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “They played harder than us; they played smarter than us; they beat us to every loose ball; they rebounded better than us; they made more shots than us.”
Freshman Azzi Fudd had a season-high 29 points for UConn (15-5, 9-1). Christyn Williams added 24 points.
Villanova, which shot 52% from the floor, never trailed. The Wildcats led by as many as 15 points in the first quarter and 41-34 at halftime. Three consecutive 3-pointers from Brooke Mullin, Garzon and Herlihy pushed the lead to 59-40 late in the third quarter.
UConn outscored the Wildcats 24-10 in the fourth, cutting the deficit to just 71-69 on a layup by Fudd with 9 seconds left. But Herlihy hit one of two free throws and UConn, which had no timeouts left, could not get another shot up.
The Wildcats dominated on the boards, outrebounding UConn 37-21, including 12-4 on the offensive end.
“That's something we've talked about all season long and just seeing our group progress with that effort and getting themselves in position to rebound,” Villanova coach Denise Dillon said. “I think where we were most pleased was on the offensive rebounding end and that just comes down to effort.”
UConn had won six in a row, including a victory over then-No. 7 Tennessee on Sunday. The Huskies had just eight healthy players and six saw playing time.
Caroline Ducharme (12.6 ppg) didn’t dress for a second consecutive game with a head injury, and center Olivia Nelson-Ododa (10 ppg, 8.2 rpg) was a late scratch from UConn’s lineup with an illness.
“With guys being out, we're not going to use that as an excuse,” Williams said. “We have guys that can play. As long as we have five, we should be ready to go.”
Villanova: The Wildcats improved to 18-37 all-time against the Huskies. Their last win against UConn was a 59-56 win on Feb. 28, 2004. Villanova improved to 2-1 this season against ranked teams. The Wildcats lost 88-67 at No. 4 Maryland and beat No. 23 Oregon State 56-52 at home.
UConn: UConn has had six players miss at least two games with either an injury or illness and has had eight different starting lineups this season. Reigning player of the year Paige Bueckers remains on track to return before the end of the season from the left knee injury that has kept her out since early December.
Garzon suffered an ankle injury while jumping up and down after the final horn and had to be helped off the court.
“She got excited, a little too happy with the celebration,” Dillon said. “I think she jumped, came down a little funny. So, fingers crossed. You hate to see those things. But she's tough, tough bird, I think she'll be all right.”
SHE SAID IT
Villanova took a bus to Connecticut. Siegrist said the Wildcats were looking forward to the 4-plus hour ride back to campus.
“I think it's going to be great," she said. “I don't care if we hit traffic, it doesn't matter. I think it's going to be a really good bus ride.”
Villanova: The Wildcats return home to host Marquette on Friday night.
UConn: The Huskies return to campus Friday to host DePaul.